Chapter 137: Kidnapping the Archduke?
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
“My loyal aides, this is why I need your help.” Thales smiled.
Putray helplessly sighed. “You’re a truly empathic prince towards your subordinates.”
Thales concealed his guilt with a dazzling expression and beamed. “Thank you, Lord Putray Nemain.”
His attendant, Wya Caso frowned. Applying pressure on his rib that was seriously wounded by the vampire, he said, “According to your theory, if these five archdukes face King Nuven in the meeting hall and act unanimously without a single weakness to be found in their behavior… How are we going to identify the murderer then?”
Putray’s gaze wandered, but Thales knew that this was his ‘thinking’ expression. “If the murder of Prince Moriah was intended to weaken the Royal Family, namely the Walton Family, then just like your intended murder by the hands of Lampard, it is also to weaken the current favorite for king selection, the Lampard Family. Additionally, it is also to cause… war?”
Thales thought for a while.
‘No wonder… King Nuven wants to use his own life to test the attitudes of the five archdukes towards the war of the two countries.’
“Faced with the option of war, there will definitely be differences in the way they act.” Thales pondered for a second. Recalling the scene just earlier, he silently said, “If it’s five people…”
“What did you see?” Putray calmly asked as their eyes met.
“First, there was a bearded man. There was also a round symbol encasing an upright triangle on his apparel. He spoke very offensively.” Thales focused on recalling his memories. “He did not disguise his hostility against me. Every word he said was intended to dishonor me.”
That bearded lord who caused him to beg on his knees was on top of Thales’ suspect list.
“Archduke Reybien O’ Leshaw of the Prestige Orchid Region. Among the three southern archdukes, he has the best relationship with King Nuven,” Putray responded quickly. “The Olsius Family did not follow the nine family of knights under Raikaru—In fact, only six out of the Nine Great Clans still have the position of archduke. And only two hundred years ago, by virtue of Walton’s support, they became the rulers of the Prestige Orchid Region, thus connecting borders with our Overwatch City.
“He indeed has a reason to dishonor you,” Putray continued. “The land on which the Central Territory of Constellation lies is the original ancient chauvinistic province of the Empire. It was the territory the Olsius Family was ordered to rule since the Ancient Empire; until His Majesty, the King of Renaissance drove them away from their hometown with his army. Judging from this perspective, Olsius and Jadestar were in fact, bitter enemies.”
“That’s really strange.” Wya shook his head. “Would someone really express hostility to you because of a family feud that happened over six hundred years ago?”
“Perhaps he was acting deliberately under the pressure of the family’s reputation… But it’s hard to say. After all, there are still people brooding over the Ancient Empire from thousands of years ago.” Thales grudgingly shrugged, ignoring Putray’s cold look. “How patriotic.”
Wya nodded pensively.
“Next, there was a middle-aged man with a bowl cut. His body was adorned with the shine of a sword’s blade. His speech was very peculiar as he tried his hardest to provoke King Nuven’s hatred for me.” Thales rubbed his chin. Pondering, he said, “From the taunting, sneering and strange speech, I do feel like his mockery was too aggressive and lacking in standards.
‘The Bowl Cut,’ Thales silently said in his heart, ‘even had the audacity to say to everyone that he refuses to send troops without any benefits to himself.’
At this point, Thales let out an audible laugh. “I am not a natural like Duke Cyril Fakenhaz when it comes to finding the perfect timing, nor am I as sharp and direct as you. It really causes one to feel helpless.”
Putray was either not paying attention, or just pretending not hear the prince’s self-derogatory speech. He simply nodded and replied, “That’s Porpheus Trentida of Reformation Tower. He is also one of the southern archdukes. I’ve heard that he acts cautiously and wisely, yet he is often mocked as being selfish and conservative.”
“If that’s so, does that mean he wants you to die at the hands of King Nuven?” Wya raised his head. “Could it be him?”
“The Reformation Tower is situated in the northeastern side of Constellation. Its territory neighbors our Lonely Old Tower.” Putray exhaled. “Compared to a regional conflict, the benefits he can reap from an outright war between the two countries are actually limited… Of course, the damages will probably be limited as well.”
“The third one was an old, bald man. He’s very elderly.” Thales took a deep breath, “This person gives me mixed feelings. He did not speak lesser than the first two, but he did not express definite emotions. Most of the time, he just went along with things and instigated strife.”
“The bald Rogers Lecco, Archduke of Defense City. They have shackles as their symbol.” Putray touched his pipe and his eyes flashed. “He’s one of Eckstedt’s two northern archdukes. He rarely takes part in Eckstedt’s central affairs but this time, he actually came forth by invitation. It’s surely suspicious.”
“Sounds like an unconcerned neutral party.” Wya wiped his sword.
“If I’m the mastermind behind all this,” Thales unfolded his hands and did not say much, “I’d be willing to behave neutrally myself.”
Putray remained silent.
“The fourth archduke has long hair and an illustration of an ancient book on his clothes.” The second prince reached out to grab the armrest and lifted himself off of the chair. “He gives me a feeling similar to that of the Duke of the Northern Territory. Bold, imposing and also seemingly values… at least superficially, his own honor.”
‘It doesn’t seem like it could be this long-haired man, who is reluctant to dishonor his family… But hasn’t the Duke of the Northern Territory betrayed King Kessel, his own Northern Territory, and even Constellation?’
“Kulgon Roknee, whose territory borders the Faraway Prayer City of Camus Union. It’s in the west of Eckstedt, near the northern end of the Great Desert.” The slim vice diplomat of Constellation stopped walking. “He sometimes works together with the Western Desert Hill of Constellation… The orcs and Barren Bone people of the desert are our mutual threats. The start of war between our countries or the weakening of Constellation will only cause additional pressure to them.”
“Don’t forget, Duke Arunde of the Northern Territory and Lampard of the Black Sand Region have collaborated before. The objective was in fact, Prince Moriah.” Thales looked at him with a sharp gaze, “Even if war between the two countries would’ve brought harm upon the former’s Northern Territory.
“Finally, the last one I met was also the youngest, Conkray Poffret. He had a childlike air about him.” He jumped off Eckstedt’s hardwood chair. “He was soft spoken and also a little hesitant. It seemed like he really respects King Nuven. When he deliberates matters, he puts the overall interests of Eckstedt first… He even put in a good word or two for me.”
He was the thirty-year-old youngster who got choked by King Nuven’s harsh words.
“A childlike air? Such words coming from you…” Putray chuckled and shook his head. “That is Conkray Poffret of Blood Shoe. As the Archduke of Beacon Illumination City, his territory lies near Dragon Clouds City. The Poffret Family is a newly promoted archducal family. Less than one hundred years of rule in Beacon Illumination City, yet they are one of the most trusted right-hands of the Walton Family. Young people are often impulsive and naturally come into conflict with conspiracy.”
“Not necessarily. We have a young duke in our own country.” Thales recollected his memories of the Duke of Iris Flowers and the mishaps along the way. He let out another sigh. “I believe you have experienced it—his schemes are never inferior to those of any old men.”
“Based on what you’ve said, every archduke seems suspicious.” Wya knitted his brows. “Are we still unable to pinpoint someone?”
Thales and Putray both turned silent.
” Prestige Orchid Region and Reformation Tower are the same as Black Sand Region. They all border Constellation. The bilateral relations impact them the most,” Putray said softly. “The City of Faraway Prayer is in the West, Defense City is in the North, whereas Beacon Illumination City is near the center of Dragon Clouds City… In short, if we want to find out who will be the one benefitting from the situation in the end, we will first need to rank the archdukes according to their degree of suspicion.”
“Haih, but suspicions will remain as suspicions. It cannot be validated.” Thales scratched at his own hair. Dejected, he said, “We urgently need a police officer who knows how to solve a case.”
In the Armor District of Dragon Clouds City, Officer Kohen who had been fighting a bitter war sneezed roughly. An inch of his hair got cut off by his opponent’s sword.
Wya flipped his sword from his knees as he asked worriedly, “If we fail to aid King Nuven in identifying his son’s murderer, will the consequences be severe?”
The Born King’s imposing expression and Nicholas’ cold glance drifted through Thales’ mind. He rolled his eyes. “It’s best to not imagine such scenarios… A father with an ardent desire to seek vengeance for his son…”
“He was not merely a son,” Putray added. “Moriah was also the heir to the Walton Family and Dragon Clouds City. Such hatred is far beyond our imaginations. Besides, King Nuven is surely doing his utmost best to eliminate dangerous opponents for his family…
“Indeed, judging from his current age, Walton’s reign will not last much longer. Furthermore, the Walton Family will be succeeded by someone completely incapable. So much so that… under orders of the new king, a Dragon Clouds City that loses its immediate successor could be granted to another family. The Waltons’ successive decline from then on could be a possibility,” Putray flatly said,
‘Of course. I had to use this to threaten Nicholas.’
The frustrated Thales sat on the ground, leaning his head against the edge of the chair. He kneaded his face helplessly.
“Speaking of which…” With eyes wide opened, Thales recalled his encounter in the library. The unkempt little girl wearing glasses and the stubborn girl’s shadows flashed before him. “I met the granddaughter of King Nuven in Heroic Spirit Palace. Have you heard of this?”
“Alex Walton?” Listening to Thales’ description, Putray knitted his brows, “I have heard about it. Prince Soria who died twelve years ago was King Nuven’s eldest son. He left a daughter behind. Probably due to the misfortune of her father, King Nuven has always strictly protected his granddaughter.
“If you had not brought it up, I’m afraid a lot of people would not have even known her name.”
“Can she not be the heir to the Walton Family?” Thales exhaled as he thought of the gorgeous little princess. “Just because she’s a lady?”
Putray shook his head.
“According to the Northlanders’ damn philosophy, a woman is a mere subsidiary and piece of property. Her only value lies in being a mother and giving birth.”
The three men looked behind them at once and saw Aida. She sat on a bed that supposedly belonged to Thales without hesitation. While she wiped her exquisite machete clean, she said with a rare, frosty tone, “After centuries, things have not changed.”
“Amongst the struggles related to Walton, she is unimportant.” Putray shook his head. “Let’s go back to solving the current problem at hand…”
Thales closed his eyes and pouted. “Fortunately, we’re not in a rush…”
At this moment, a knock came from the room’s door.
Scowling, Ralf pulled it open.
The new recruit rescued by Thales, Willow Ken stood at the door. He scratched his head and smiled.
“T-That Marquis of Camus has sent word.” Willow seemed to be pleased at the opportunity to meet the prince. He chuckled. “According to his subordinate, it seems to be quite important…”
Thales knitted his brows.
“He said that there are two archdukes. Tomorrow morning…
“They will be leaving Dragon Clouds City to attend to certain matters.”
Willow laughed as he finished his message.
But at the next second, he surprisingly found that almost everyone’s expression in the room—Thales included—had changed dramatically.
Ashen-faced, Thales looked as if he had just received the worst news ever.
‘The archdukes… were they just here to take a look at me, and then leave immediately?’
After the departure of Willow, who had an unfathomable expression on his face, Ralf lightly closed the door with the same scowl on his face.
“Tomorrow morning?” Wya looked distressed.
Thales’ breath quickened. With a bleak look in his eyes, he said, “That means…”
“Yes,” Putray worriedly pinched his pipe, “The time that we have left…”
He did not continue, but everyone silently said in their hearts, ‘Only one night left.’
“I’ll repeat myself.” Wya Caso’s face turned pale as he returned his sword to its sheath. “If we fail to aid King Nuven in identifying his son’s murderer… will the consequences be severe?”
Putray sighed as he shook his head.
‘Stop asking, Wya.’
“This evening’s welcoming banquet. It’s our last chance.” Thales gritted his teeth. “Think of a way to single out that bastard!”
‘How can I be so unlucky?’
“Based on King Nuven’s probing and observation methods, I’m afraid it will not be fruitful.” Putray’s grip on his pipe tightened. “Your experience this morning proves my point.”
“Then…” Thales muttered.
“Let us go for them!” Aida jumped off the bed fiercely.
Everyone casted their gaze upon the Elf Protector.
“Let Nuven segregate manpower to accommodate us. At night, we shall conceal our faces and secretly kidnap those archdukes!
“One by one, we will punish and interrogate them!
“We shall see how long these so-called archdukes can hold out under the sword.”
Everyone was stunned by this side Aida showed.
Everyone pretended as though they never heard her. They turned back and acted normally.
“Let us have a change in perspective.” Thales rubbed his hands together. He furrowed his brows and said to Putray, “The person we’re looking for collaborated with Lampard in the murder of King Nuven’s son.”
“Hey! Why are you acting like you didn’t see me?” Aida gritted her teeth, obviously dissatisfied with being ignored by the others. “At least give me some reaction!”
“However, he interfered with Lampard’s army. He attempted to frame Black Sand Region with your murder,” Putray answered instinctively.
“Are there any clues inside?” Wya curiously asked.
The Elf Protector behind them protested by waving two machetes in the air, to no avail.
“King Nuven and I only know as much.” Thales shook his head. “It seems pretty useless.”
“Perhaps we should not revolve our thoughts around King Nuven’s thoughts.” Putray put down the unlit pipe in his hand, his eyes shining with confidence.
Aida lowered her head dejectedly and sighed. She retreated to Thales’ bed.
He looked at Putray and furrowed his brows. “You mean…”
“Remember when we were surrounded by Lampard’s army at Broken Dragon Fortress?” Putray said softly.
“Of course, it left a deep impression.” Blood and light flashed before Thales’ eyes, not to mention Arracca Murkh’s raging growl. He sighed. “It was an utter mess.”
Drowning in boredom, Aida fiddled with her machetes on the bed.
“Then, I reckon you remember what the baron told you before the frontline charge?” Putray smiled mysteriously. “King Nuven is not our only option.”
All of a sudden, Thales’ body trembled.
‘Before the charge…’
The image of Arracca swaying his big sword popped up in his mind.
A few seconds later, he nodded.
Thales took a deep breath, his unswerving determination apparent. “Since there’s no turning back, why don’t we go charging at full force?”
Thales looked at his vice diplomat with a burning gaze. “He knows?”
Putray smirked affirmatively. “He knows.”
Baffled, Wya and Ralf watched as the both of them talked in riddles.
Wya found it difficult to swallow. “So, what should we do?”
Thales and Putray’s eyes met, after which they laughed.
“Aida was right.” Thales looked at the elf on the bed. Under Putray’s gaze, he nodded.
“Ah.” When her name was mentioned, she eagerly looked up. Although, she was a little bewildered. “What?”
In the middle of Wya’s shock and Putray’s laughter, Thales took a deep breath and said, “We…
“… Shall find them!”
Aida’s mouth hung open wider than ever.
Putray became serious in an instant and he retired his pipe. “I’ll get ready immediately and contact the others… Maybe we will need some help from the inside.
“Also, Wya, Ralf, come with me.”
Thales returned to his seat, rapidly weighing out the feasibility of the plan.
He raised his head and turned backwards.
Aida’s voice could be heard as she faintly asked, “You guys really want to kidnap the archdukes?”